Genesis comes to an end in the portion, Va y’ hi, with Jacob blessing his children before he dies. It’s not exactly touchy-feely. While Jacob does generate positive feelings about Joseph and Judah, he has a long memory of escapades by Rueben, Simeon and Levi, and isn’t shy about busting them on it.
Finally Jacob gets to Benjamin, his youngest:
“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
In the morning he consumes the foe,
And in the evening he divides the spoil.” (Gen. 49:27)
Rather chilling isn’t it? It’s the last thing one would expect to be said about Benjamin. He’s the cute kid everyone wants to protect, the one Jacob is adamant about NOT sending to Egypt as Joseph has ordered.
But there might be more to it than that. First, remember that Benjamin’s mother, Rachel, died in childbirth. Nor has Benjamin ever known his brother Joseph, because the eldest son of Rachel supposedly was killed by wild animals. So Benjamin has been left to his own devices in dealing with his tough elder half brothers.
Then, once in Egypt, Benjamin may well have thought he had been a pawn in Joseph’s elaborate charade. It’s not inconceivable that deep down he developed a certain chip on his shoulder.
In fact, Benjamin’s tribal descendants will prove to be difficult customers in the time to come, as warriors battling not only external threats in the desert, but, in the Book of Judges, other Israelite tribes. So accomplished will the Tribe of Benjamin be as soldiers, they will produce Israel’s first king, Saul.
Questions to think about: Rachel’s two sons with Jacob both have a tangible connection with the Israelites’ future. Joseph is linked to the Israelite migration to Egypt, and Benjamin is linked to the era of kingship. Which other brothers are directly connected to Israel’s future?